For Ever Mozart
1996, NR, 84 min. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Starring Madeleine Assas, Frederic Pierrot, Ghalia Lacroix, Berangere Allaux, Vicky Messica.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 10, 1997
Most days, if asked to name the most important filmmaker in the history of cinema, my answer would be Jean-Luc Godard … of course. Now that I have had the chance to (twice) see this French contrarian's elliptical and fairly impenetrable 1996 film For Ever Mozart, my overall assessment of Godard has not changed one bit. Yet For Ever Mozart is not the kind of work that's going to ignite many chants of “Forever Godard” -- either by longtime enthusiasts or nouveau fans. If you want to see great recent Godard films, check out Germany Year 90 Nine Zero or JLG by JLG. (If you want to see some great early work, his 1963 film Contempt, starring Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, Michel Piccoli, and Fritz Lang, is scheduled for a local theatrical run in just a few weeks.) For Ever Mozart finds Godard revisiting his familiar themes of art, death, politics, and war, and continuing his ongoing dialogue with the medium of filmmaking itself. At the outset, Godard subtitles For Ever Mozart as “characters in search of history.” The film follows a few different groups of characters, though their storylines have no clear demarcations. A film director (Messica) wants to make a movie about war based on the Spanish novelist Juan Goytisolo's claim that “the history of the 1990s in Europe is a rehearsal, with slight symphonic variations, of the cowardice and chaos of the 1930s.” The film director's daughter, her cousin, and the family's Arab maid are preparing to go to Sarajevo to put on a production of Alfred de Musset's One Must Not Play at Love. The trip proves disastrous as the touring literati are captured, tortured, and forced to dig their own graves. Later on, the film director decides to make a political movie called Fatal Bolero, a work satirized in For Ever Mozart's closing moments as audience members waiting in line to see it decide to go off and see Terminator 4 instead. Godard's film is an elegiac meditation about the inability of art to alter the course of world events. The piece is full of Godard's characteristically aphoristic pronouncements and declarations, as well as a series of striking images and compositions. Yet, the film is also enormously difficult to follow and offers little guidance from its maker. T4 this is not. Nor will For Ever Mozart leave you Breathless.